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A Planet-Wide Explosion of Religious Nutcases – The Human Race, Facing Possible Extinction, Reaches for Help in All the Wrong Places

2:55 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

An extremely unhinged Alaska schemer, anointed against witchcraft by a real witch hunter, has hundreds of thousands of twitter followers, a million facebook friends.

The USA’s headlines are dominated by inane arguments (see all 7,000 articles from the past 24 hours!) about a religion-based community center in lower Manhattan.

The son of Billy Graham jumps to reinforce hatred toward the president.

Soldiers at our stateside military bases are disciplined for refusing to attend Christian fundamentalist events on base.

The examples seem to be endless.

Where has our sanity gone?

If all this nuttery was happening in some kind of vacuum it would be bad enough. But here we are, facing a serious global environmental catastrophe reaching the point of no return, and all our large-scale information inputs are consumed with jibberish not much more advanced than what Aztec priests must have uttered to justify tearing the hearts out of their trophy victims.

Why isn’t memeorandum linking to the outcry about misinformation on the BP Gulf disaster, instead of the mosque bullshit?

Why aren’t more media stories directed toward the acidification of the oceans, which is approaching the point of irreversibility?

Why can’t we somehow unite as a nation to build a green economy that creates long-term employment for our kids, their kids and so on?

My lifelong belief that there are redeeming aspects of religions which somehow outweigh their obvious shortcomings diminishes day by day, almost hour by hour, as I watch the hatreds of fundamentalists from most faiths combine with the greed of their adherents, to consume the last vestiges of intelligent life from our presence.

I haven’t figured out yet why rational religious leaders have so much less sway than the demagogues.

Is there a way out of this maze?

Firedoglake Live Blogs a Major Turning Point in Middle East Conflict

10:38 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Beginning May 16th, I wrote a series of diaries here that sought to heighten awareness of the renewed and refreshed strident militance being shown by the Israeli government toward critics, and sought to bring more attention to the flotilla of boats and ships determined to lift the illegal siege of Gaza.

Saturday evening, as the flotilla was leaving the vicinity of Cyprus, I began a live blog post here. Sunday afternoon, as the flotilla neared the Levantine coast, Siun took over. Her firedoglake post ended up collecting information almost in real time, as the most serious attack by a foreign power in history on a collection of boats flagged by NATO members unfolded.

The blogs mondoweiss and Daily Kos also contained posts which sought to live blog the crime as it played out.

On May 16th, I noted that the freighter, MV Rachel Corrie, was leaving Irish waters, to join vessels already in the Mediterranean.

On May 20th, in light of Elvis Costello’s cancellation of an Israel concert tour, I speculated that it might be time to consider gathering artists together to create a 2010 version of the pivotal protest album from 1985, Sun City. That album helped galvanize resistance to the South African government policy of Apartheid.

On May 22, I noted the absence of mainstream media, especially in the USA, toward the gathering of vessels for the flotilla, and wondered how the approach of the the small fleet to the Gaza coast might be covered.

On May 25, I wrote about the assembly of boats, their problems, and the mounting evidence that the IDF would forcefully attempt to commandeer the vessels. I was concerned.

On Saturday May 29, I began the live blog, which was passed on to Siun yesterday, during her regular Sunday afternoon slot.

Others have also contributed diaries at firedoglake on this.

I’ve learned a lot from the process of writing about this. Foremost, perhaps, is that in spite of the stated IDF intention of isolating the vessels from being able to emit real time information during the attack, they were unsuccessful. As in the demonstrations in Iran in the wake of their farcical election last year, people managed to bypass jamming and blackouts, through workarounds or through discovery that government jamming had holes in it.

Twitter, through hundreds of cell phones on board the vessels, described the attacks in terse tweets from bloodstained decks. These tweets were passed back and forth between twitter sites throughout last night, as they aggregated incoming news from many early sources.

The Turkish video feed from the large cruise ship, where most casualties occurred will become iconic, even as the IDF releases their night vision videos that seek to purport the IDF was responding to a "lynch mob" as it opened fire on dozens of unarmed civilians, attempting to defend themselves from a brazen, illegal act in international waters.

Norman Finkelstein’s 2009 book about the 2008-2009 Gaza invasion is titled This Time We Went Too Far. It is an apt title. Many of us have experienced how friends or relatives finally stopped straddling the fence over how Israel conducts itself, as we and they witnessed the barbarity of the IDF assault on schools, hospitals, clinics, fire departments, bakeries, dairies and houses in the besieged Gaza enclave.

This time, the IDF went too far in ways that may be pivotal. Juan Cole, writing this morning, observes:

It is worth noting on Memorial Day that the Israeli attack deeply complicates the task of the US military in the region. It is a propaganda boon for Sunni extremists and Shiite activists such as Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, and for the Taliban in Afghanistan. It undermines the authority of the Egyptian and Jordanian governments, which have US-brokered peace treaties with Israel, treaties that are deeply unpopular with ordinary people in both countries. That some demonstrations are being held in front of US consulates and not just Israeli ones tells us who will get the blame for Netanyahu’s machismo.

Turkish-Israeli relations, already in an abysmal state, might never recover. Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Israel. The attack on several NATO-related vessels, in international waters, and without provocation, as noted above, is unprecedented. Turkey will be right to bring this before the NATO North Atlantic Council, which meets about once per week. The United Nations Security Council is meeting right now about the attack, with the Secretary General having already made a harsh statement.

As I noted in Siun’s live blog diary last night:

If the flotilla was actually moving away from the coast when boarded, after having responded to IDF enquiries regarding intent and course, this is a lost cause for the Israelis to defend. They have no claim that their response was appropriate.

Some, if not all, of the vessels were giving out position reports up to the boarding. The record of these is indelible. The Turks will surely bring this fact up to the North Atlantic Council this week, and it may have been brought up today at the UN Security Council.

A Daily Kos Diary, analyzing NATO responsibilities regarding Turkey in this matter, has hundreds of comments, Here is the key part of NATO doctrine that might pertain directly to actions after this attack:

Israel’s attack on the MV Blue Mamara, a Turkish vessel, means they just attacked a member of NATO. According to the NATO Charter, Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

If you think there is wiggle room in that definition, you would be mistaken. Article 6 is explicit about where attacks will trigger responses. Vessels in the Mediterranean Sea are mentioned explicitly.

The Israeli Prime Minister has cut short a North American trip that was to conclude with a White House meeting Tuesday. He’s had to return home to prepare for the Third Intifada, and to attempt to salvage diplomatic relations with a number of counties besides just Turkey.

Within the American progressive community Israel has always had and still has staunch supporters of every action by the IDF or Israeli government. But those numbers were severely diminished by this highly criminal attack. But, as a commenter at Mondoweiss observed this morning:

There are now 4 diaries on the rec list at Daily Kos condemning the Israeli piracy. Even during Cast Lead, this didn’t happen.

Other lefty blogs that generally avoid discussing Israel/Palestine issues at all will, should they continue to blind themselves in this matter, lose readers and influence.

A very important article recently appeared in the New York Review of Books. In The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment, by Peter Beinart, the author explains in detail how the large family size and emigration into Israel of ultra Orthodox inhabitants and their growing influence on internal Israeli politics will inevitably force young American Jews who are liberal to forsake support for the Zionist state and its brutal expansionist goals. The article has caused quite a stir, to say the least.

Israel has succeeded, in last night’s attack, in further isolating itself as an increasingly rogue nation. Some are even predicting an implosion there, similar to those of Apartheid South Africa, or of the Warsaw Pact communist governments.

Two things are certain though. Twitter, as a driver of non-MSM instant information has come of age.

And firedoglake, thanks to Siun and our commenting community, has once again led the way in live blogging a pivotal moment.

Artists as Environmentalists – The Spreading Gulf Tragedy Begs A Nationwide Call to Action

11:38 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

As the oil hits the reefs, offshore bars and beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, are we faced with another Exxon Valdez catastrophe? Yes. Can we learn from that disaster in how this ongoing tragedy is documented by artists? Absolutely. Here is some of how we can do it. You may add your suggestions too.

I. In 1989, the internet did exist, but not many people had access. Graphic interfaces that led to the many free web browsers were limited, and didn’t do much. Few people had cell phones. The cable news paradigm as we now know it didn’t yet exist. CNN was there on Prince William Sound, but not in a big way. National and Anchorage newspapers were much healthier then than now, and made earnest efforts to cover events. The same was true of NPR and Alaska’s outstanding Alaska Public Radio Network. The influence of AM talk radio was much more primitive than it now is. Blogging was pretty much limited to what were called "newsgroups."

In 1989, when local Alaskans and interested independent journalists descended upon the scene, they were limited in methods they could use to document the ongoing tragedy by technology, communication and basic logistics. The technology was bulky, and mostly analog. The communication grid at the sites of the spill was limited to VHF and Single Sideband maritime and aviation-based radio. The logistics of getting there in late winter, miles from the ports of Valdez, Cordova, Whittier or Seward, was convoluted, and most charter boats and planes were already chartered or overbooked for the cleanup by the third day of the spill.

Environmentalists were mostly limited to helping in efforts to save individual animals once the animals had been brought to Valdez, Seward or Anchorage. There was no real time coverage of the growth of the spill by any parties outside of the mainstream. From the beginning of the spill, Exxon and the USCG attempted to attenuate and spin how the outgoing flow of information was handled. Over half the people Exxon flew into Alaska or Valdez on the morning of the spill were attorneys.

From the moment of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, I was involved with artists who were or are also ecologically motivated. In the ensuing years, I’ve worked with several artists who documented aspects of the EVOS (Exxon Valdez oil spill) through visual, graphic and audio art. In the early 1990s, I toured with bronze sculptor Peter Bevis, as we presented his compelling castings of victims of that and other spills. We called our presentation "Artists as Environmentalists." There have been tenth and twentieth anniversary gallery shows in Alaska that have looked back on this. The most recent, produced by Homer’s Bunnell Street Gallery, SPILL: Alaskan Artists Remember, toured several communities last year.

In this collaborative process, I’ve learned a few things that might help those who hope to create visceral, living art about all the dying that is beginning to occur. Here are some suggestions:

II. In covering the Gulf tragedy, artists should attempt to capture the essence of what this is – a massive wave of death. There will be many compelling stories of people who manage to deploy a boom or clean an oiled bird, or come up with an innovative idea that might actually have a beneficial local effect. Documenting these instances is a good thing, but try to present the small and heartening victories in a realistic overall context.

As often as possible, artists should try to partner with local ecologists and environmental activists, from the areas where damage is happening. Try to understand these people as individuals, and visibly show them physically performing their tasks.

Avoid contacts with national environmental organizations. They do not understand what motivates independent artists. If you don’t make cute watercolors or coffee mug logos for brochures, fundraisers or auction events, they don’t understand you. Nor do they want to.

Try to find venues that can help you live stream what you are documenting. Hopefully, viable nodes for dissemination of images and artistic impressions of this will develop over the coming weekend. When they do, spread the word, possibly steering artists and other documentarians toward those sites that are becoming most effective.

Seek out folk musicians, rappers, slam poets and other artists who have a following among the very young. Develop some new collaborative co-ops for the purpose of truthfully recording what is going down.

It is likely that the spill will hit Cuba. If you are or know an artist with Cuban connections, you might consider getting your travel permissions going right now, as it sometimes takes a while to get all the papers in order.

BP, the USCG and Homeland Security will all give dozens of dog-and-pony shows in communities either in the line of fire, or recently slimed. Attend these events, and record the impressions of locals who came to them, especially right after they’ve been fed the inevitable total line of crap, such as "we will make you whole again."

III. Please add any further suggestions you might have in the comments.

Artists can uniquely portray ecological catastrophe. They can partner with ecologists, environmentalists and community activists, to give perspective on what has happened that nobody else can.

Here’s a remembrance of animals, from the EVOS disaster.

Palin – Obama “Escalated a Minor Zoning Decision into a Major Breach”

12:49 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Friday Morning, at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, in New Orleans, Sarah Palin termed the ongoing illegal expansion of Israeli settlement in and around East Jerusalem a "minor zoning decision," as she tried to articulate what she described as "The Obama Doctrine."

Here’s Sarah Palin this morning at the GOP conference in NOLA that has yet to mention Hurricane Katrina:

"A minor zoning decision"? Here’s a video that explains the history of what the former mayor of Wasilla has described is these quaint terms:

And here’s a map that shows how that "zoning" has worked in the larger area of the former Palestine Mandate, since 1946.

In her Friday morning Southern Republican Leadership Conference speech, Palin’s intentional mispronunciation of "nuclear" as "nukular," – or however one spells it – is as troublesome as her belittlement of the beginnings of the most important nuclear arms agreement in a generation was the other day.

I’ve seen Palin’s cold eyes, as she told me that the world is a mere 6,000 to 7,000 years old, that humans and very, very big dinosaurs walked the earth together (presumably before the Noachian Deluge), and that she looks forward to seeing Jesus return to Earth during her lifetime. Perhaps in a new zone in Jerusalem, marked "Jesusland"?

I’ve long been critical of our Alaska media’s refusal to openly condemn or even chastise Palin for inciting divisive conduct and activities up here. But now, with George Stephanopoulis’ insinuation of this superstitious pathological liar into dialogue with the President on nuclear armament, without putting the craziness of this woman and her beliefs into context, the same irresponsibility regarding Palin I’ve seen in Alaska for years, is coming front and center into national politics.

Her ability to misframe issues was proven in the "death panel" affair last summer. Will we see the national media’s desperation for hits and viewers, combined with their realization that Palin brings more hits and viewers than anyone else, cause the same sort of damage to the national discourse her presence inflicted upon Alaska up to last year?

The Curious Case of Dan Fagan’s Levi Johnston Op-Ed in the Anchorage Daily News

11:51 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Dan Fagan, the large-scale Anchorage media figure who questioned Levi Johnston’s apprenticeship qualifications this weekend, has somehow become a left blogosphere icon today. Guess what – he’s a homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, Exxon-loving WATB, who just happens to also dislike Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Buzzflash is linking to Fagan’s article. DailyKos has had two diaries on his article up so far. Firedoglake’s La Figa has an entry on this article. And I haven’t even begun to look. I’m not going to waste my time. Instead, I’m going to spend that time putting Fagan’s article and Fagan into a bit more context, since there’s a fundamental misunderstanding afoot as to who he is and why he seems to be after the Palins.

First a little background on this issue, which surfaced at the Anchorage Daily News in early October, in a letter to the editor:

Who got Levi Johnston his job at the slope?
Posted by riverlee
Posted: October 13, 2008 – 6:10 pm

I didn’t pay attention to it or write about it then. I was very busy, helping reporters from around the world get information on Sarah Palin. Nor, it appears, did any of the rest Read the rest of this entry →